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Business

Townhouse keeps diners coming back

More than just the name changed when the Bergmanns bought the restaurant and turned Debbie's place into Bob's.

By MELISSA DULLAGHAN
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 16, 2003


INVERNESS -- Bob and Claudia Bergmann were just visiting from Germany, but they liked it so much, they bought it.

"It" is the Townhouse, the well-known diner on Main Street in downtown Inverness that draws a solid lunch crowd and plenty of morning regulars.

The Bergmanns took over in August and decided to keep the restaurant's name because it was familiar to customers. But there is one change: It's now known as Bob's Townhouse instead of Debbie's Townhouse, the latter name referring to previous owner Debbie Kanaris.

Before buying the Townhouse, Bob Bergmann worked in the catering business in Germany. He served groups of 50 to 70 people and eventually groups of up to 500.

The Bergmanns have improved the building and the quality of food offered and added new menu specials.

Most convenient for customers is a second entrance the new owners added off S Apopka Avenue, between the fire department and the old Chevron gas station.

Another improvement: a bright new coat of paint. "The old dark green wasn't very visible. We painted it brighter so it can be seen better from the street," Claudia Bergmann said.

Upon acquiring the restaurant, the Bergmanns did a thorough job of cleaning the kitchen and restrooms. They ordered many new pieces of equipment and added softer, stylish lighting and fans.

In addition, the Bergmanns believe they offer higher-quality burgers and steaks. They guarantee that if dissatisfied with the quality of the meat, the customer doesn't have to pay for it.

The new owners like taking care of the regular customers they "inherited" and feel the improvements they have made have kept them coming back.

Many of those regular customers have taken notice.

"To me, it rates a 10 because I always know it's clean, the waitresses are cheerful, and Bob is a funny, bubbly guy," said Rosalie "Lee" Gordon, 66, of Inverness. Gordon comes in twice a day nearly every day: for coffee or the omelet specials in the morning, and then later for dinner, with the all-you-can-eat spaghetti special on Wednesdays being her favorite.

Another regular, George Beck, 51, of Inverness, has eaten at the Townhouse about 25 years because of "the small-town, family atmosphere."

Another fan of Bob's breakfast omelets, as well as the patty melts, Beck visits about twice a week.

When the Bergmanns first took over, "the customers would come in for just a cup of coffee. Then they began ordering food," Claudia Bergmann said. "Many customers have commented that they noticed" the improvements.

Bob also enjoys how friendly the people are. He feels his Townhouse is special among Inverness restaurants because of its atmosphere.

"It's like a big living room," he explained.

Sometimes Bob can be seen sitting beside one of his regular customers at the counter having a drink and cracking a joke. But he's quick to rise and greet the customers just coming in or attend to someone who needs his help.

The Bergmanns kept much of the prior menu selection, but the inexpensive daily specials were their own creation.

It was hard to plan the specials, they said, but customers looking at the specials page have much to smile about.

They have many choices, like Tuesday's garden omelet or two pancakes with bacon, and Wednesday's Hawaii omelet (with pineapple, ham and cheese) or two slices of French toast.

Omelets come with home fries, hash browns, or grits and buttered toast and cost less than $4.

Dinner specials are just as appealing: Monday night offers the appetizer (a basket of fried onion rings, mushrooms or cheese sticks) and burger for $5, and Tuesday boasts a choice of smothered chicken breast fillet or an 8-ounce New York strip steak.

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